4/4/23: A new city attorney

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

High 62°/Low 56° Rainy

Kalamazoo commissioners have picked a new city attorney. Also: Plans for a downtown arena are still vague, but an economic development leader says the impact will be huge. And Kalamazoo’s farmers market got a big boost from the state.

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Kzoo picks new city attorney

The City of Kalamazoo’s new city attorney will likely be the son of migrant farm workers who first got to know Michigan when he moved here as a child to pick crops. City commissioners voted 5-2 last night to offer the job to Aaron Leal, the city attorney in Royal Oak. He was selected over two other candidates who made it into the final round of interviews. The city still needs to conduct a background check and negotiate a contract before it officially offers Leal the job. The goal is to have that all completed by early June.

Several community members, as well as two commissioners, wanted to offer the job to Lewis Smith. Smith was most recently legal council for Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. Vice Mayor Don Cooney and Commissioner Stephanie Hoffman said his previous experience would make him adept at fighting housing discrimination in the city. But other commissioners worried about his lack of experience in municipal law.

Economic development chief talks community building, arena

Community development is the new name of the game for Southwest Michigan First. The longtime regional economic development organization announced that it has recently shifted its focus from a purely business focus to efforts to uplift entire communities in the region it represents. CEO Jonas Peterson gave a presentation to Kalamazoo city commissioners last night on the group’s recent efforts. That includes a new Ford battery plant being developed in nearby Calhoun County. “This is going to have an impact, and in many ways help launch an entirely new segment of advanced manufacturing throughout southwest Michigan,” he said.

But the subject of a proposed arena in downtown Kalamazoo was on commissioners’ minds, and they tried to get more details. Peterson said there isn’t much yet to report. “In many ways the hard work is just beginning, including construction timeline, including final design,” he said. “There are certainly some rough timelines, but we expect over the next six months that more of those details will be coming together.” What we do know is that the event center would be built on four blocks of land between Westnedge Avenue and Park Street and that development is being entirely privately funded.

More News You Need To Know

Kzoo farmers market project gets boost from state

A plan to build an event center at Kalamazoo’s farmers market is getting help from the State of Michigan. Kalamazoo city commissioners last night agreed to accept $500,000 in state grant funding for the project. The event center building is the second phase of a larger project to renovate the farmers market. Phase one wrapped up last year and included upgrades to outdoor structures and the construction of restrooms.

The phase two event center will include large, open spaces for meetings, youth programs, and other events. It will also feature a kitchen space that can be used for demonstrations and classes. Construction on the $6.3 million project is expected to begin in late 2024. [MLive]

Bike rental program opens in Portage

As of Saturday, residents can rent bicycles for use on Portage’s Bicentennial Park Trail. The Bike Portage Bike Share Rental program features ten step-through style bikes that rent for $1 per half hour. The bikes are housed just north of the Celery Flats Pavilion. Bikes can be unlocked using an app called Movatic. Users register and pay through the app, which unlocks a bike. Weather permitting, the bike rental program will run through the end of October. [WWMT]

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

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Rookie Detectives: Georgia O’Keeffe Loved the Desert – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
10:00AM 4/4

Kirk Newman Art School Residents – Part II – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
12:00PM 4/4

Kirsten Tracy and David Small Present: Cat’s Very Good Day – this is a bookstore | Bookbug
6:30PM 4/4

John & Tamara With Luke Lenhart – The Sugar Bowl Bar and Grill
6:30PM 4/4

Spring Cleaning! Cleansing Vegan Recipes for a Healthful Year Ahead – Chef Channon
7:00PM 4/4

Spring Cleaning Boot Camp – Portage District Library
7:00PM 4/4

Our Planet Live in Concert – Miller Auditorium
7:00PM 4/5

Craft Music – Spring – Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
7:00PM 4/5

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 4/5

NYC Pianist David Berkman – WMU, Dalton Center
7:30PM 4/5

The Kettle Belles – Louie’s Trophy House
9:00PM 4/5

Playworks Michigan Playshop – Woods Lake Elementary School
9:00AM 4/6

Intro to Henna Design – Coffee Rescue
6:00PM 4/6

Adult African Diasporic Dance – Rootead
6:30PM 4/6

Garcia Peoples & Chris Forsyth – Bell’s Eccentric Cafe
8:00PM 4/6

See more upcoming events here.

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